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Development of the IAFSS Agenda 2030 for a Fire Safe World


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By Brian Meacham

The world is facing enormous challenges in terms of increasing and diversifying population, climate change and associated impacts, and lack of natural, technological and financial resources. Concurrently, technology is rapidly advancing, cities are growing larger and denser, the population is aging and becoming more diverse, and risk control systems are not keeping pace. These challenges are recognized by countries around the world, across all levels of income, with varying capacity to address them.

To make matters worse, often missing in many discussions around such societal grand challenges – and how to address them – is the impact of unwanted fire on health, safety, climate, community resilience and the economy, and the benefits to be gained through fire mitigation. As the world has witnessed over the past few years with the increasing frequency and severity of wildland fire, expansive losses associated with informal or improper construction in low- and middle-income countries, and devastating consequences of inadequate fire safety features in high-rise buildings, fire cannot and should not be ignored.

As a means to raise the awareness about the relationship between fire and the grand societal challenges, to show that there are people who can help, and to provide a roadmap for addressing some of the key challenges, the International Association for Fire Safety Science (IAFSS) decided that the fire safety science and engineering community needed to become more proactive in communicating with policy makers about the challenges that exist and the opportunities to address them. The IAFSS ( is an association of scientists, engineers and others, from some 40 countries, focused on advancing fire safety through research and education. For more than 30 years, the IAFSS has played a significant role in facilitating fire safety science research, education, dialogue and exchange between fire safety scientists, engineers, governments and the public worldwide.

To get the ball rolling around the topic of grand challenges and fire, in early 2018, IAFSS Committee members Margaret McNamee (Lund University, Sweden) and Brian Meacham (Meacham Associates, USA) began planning a workshop, IAFSS Agenda 2030 for a Fire Safe World, to be held in September 2018 in conjunction with the 3rd European Symposium on Fire Safety Science, Nancy, France. To seed thinking, a ‘white paper’ was drafted and circulated. A great deal of positive feedback was obtained, with Birgitte Messerschmidt (NFPA, USA) and Professor George Boustras (Centre for Risk and Decision Sciences, European University, Cyprus) joined the planning team, greatly assisting in the advancement of the paper, development of the workshop, and communicating with members of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission and more.

Following a successful workshop in Nancy, the white paper was updated, and a similar socialization of the document and outreach for feedback and enhancement was conducted in association with the 11th Asia-Oceania Symposium on Fire Science and Technology (11th AOSFST) held in Taipei in October 2018. In addition, a request was made to IAFSS that they, along with ISO TC 92 (Fire Safety), and with the support of numerous sponsors, hold a Workshop to Define a Fire Safety Mission for Europe based on the IAFSS Agenda 2030 for a Fire Safe World. Hosted at the CEN/CENELEC facility in Brussels on 3 December 2018, this workshop drew some 100 attendees from across the sector, as well as representatives from the European Commission (DG GROW, DG Research), and resulted in enhancements to the IAFSS Agenda as well as to form material to support a proposal to the European Commission for a Fire Safety Mission for Europe.

Throughout the process, the full IAFSS membership was invited to comment on evolving versions of the paper, and to provide input to the interim versions of the document, in support of the development of a global view. As a result of the numerous workshops and global socialization of the paper, it was agreed that the societal grand challenges where fire safety science and engineering research can most significantly contribute in the near term are (1) climate change, resiliency and sustainability, and (2) population growth, urbanization and globalization. In addition, it was agreed that the ability to harness new technology, e.g. artificial intelligence and big data, and activities related to advancing, enhancing, and expanding higher education are cross-cutting areas that are essential to solve many of the activities associated with the two grand challenges.

In early 2019, the IAFSS Agenda 2030 for a Fire Safe World was completed and published in Fire Safety Journal, where it is freely available through open access for all to read and share ( The paper discusses in more detail the grand societal challenges for which fire safety science and engineering can help, the fields of action within the disciplines where pertinent expertise can be found, and research topics that can be addressed. These are summarized in the table below.


Societal Grand Challenge

Fire Science and Engineering Fields of Research and Action

Research Activities

Climate Change, Resilience and Sustainability


Wildland Fires and Wildland-Urban Interface

· Fundamentals of Wildland Fire Ignition and Spread,

· Understanding and Management of Wildland-Urban Interface,

· Wildfire Resilient Buildings, Human Behavior in Wildland Fire,

· Wildfire Control, Suppression,

· Wildfire Incident Management

Societal Resilience

· Resilience of buildings, communities and society

· Incident Management

· Risk for cascading/escalating incidents

Fire Safety and Sustainability

· Low Environmental Impact Fire Safe Materials

· Fire Safe Energy Storage / Energy Saving Materials

· Environmental Impact of Fire

· Economic impact of fire including cost of fire protection, savings due to fire service and indirect losses from fires

· Toxicity of Materials to Environment

· Fire Test Methods

· risk-based fire safety engineering

Population growth, urbanization and globalization


Globally Consistent Regulations, Standards, and Guidelines

· Global Consistency

· Internationally consistent Regulations

· Standards and Guidelines for Fire Safety, Human Behavior in Fire

· Universal data collection, collation and management

· Improved exchange of data and learning from real incidents both in terms of performance requirements and response tactics

Tall Buildings and Urban Development

· Social, Psychological and Physiological Response to Fire of Aged Persons and of Persons of Different Abilities

· Safety in Place / Evacuation

· Firefighting tactics

· Fire dynamics in the built environment


New Technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data

· Data mining

· Smart Buildings for Fire Safety,

· Smart Firefighting Technology

· Forecasting of Fire for Evacuation and Fire Service Response

· New and improved models for extrapolation from fire tests to real life performance

· Identification of At-Risk Persons and Buildings

Higher education


· International agreement on relevant curriculum and qualifications

· International exchange

· Multidisciplinary education

The IAFSS understands that tackling these challenges requires a multi-disciplinary and global effort, and calls fire scientists and engineers around the world to open necessary dialogue in their regions and beyond to make regulators, funding agencies and fellow scientists and engineers aware of what needs to be done to move towards a fire safe world 2030 and beyond.

The IAFSS understands and appreciates that the fire safety research and engineering community cannot live on its own island – it must be integrated with other disciplines, and with society, to make the impact that is needed. We need the help of others to help us break out of our silos and embrace a much wider understanding of societal needs, and of the role of fire safety science and engineering on building and infrastructure design, construction, and management. It is also clear that fire safety challenges will change and develop over time. Thus, the IAFSS Agenda 2030 for a Fire Safe World represents a snapshot, highlighting important topics. Updated position papers should be developed in the future to keep abreast new emerging challenges. The IAFSS will continue to work to raise awareness, foster multidisciplinary collaboration, develop new models, methods, data and education in support of this vision. We invite all who are willing to partner with us to contact the Association ( and support the IAFSS Agenda 2030 for a Fire Safe World.


Sincere appreciation is given to Margaret McNamee for leading the effort, to Birgitte Messerschmidt and Professor George Boustras for their valuable contributions associated with early drafts and workshops, to the IAFSS Committee members for their input and support, and to the IAFSS members and others whose contributions through feedback on drafts, discussions during workshops, and related avenues resulted in a global perspective on the document.

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